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Cyptojacking Attacks Target Enterprises With NSA-Linked Exploits

A new cyptojacking campaign targeting enterprises in Asia is leveraging the National Security Agency-linked DoublePulsar backdoor and the EternalBlue exploit for network spreading, Symantec reveals. 

A new cyptojacking campaign targeting enterprises in Asia is leveraging the National Security Agency-linked DoublePulsar backdoor and the EternalBlue exploit for network spreading, Symantec reveals. 

Dubbed Beapy, the campaign aims to drop a file-based coinminer onto compromised machines, to hijack their computing power for the attackers’ benefit. First observed in January 2019, the activity has been increasing since March, the security firm says

Written in Python, the coinminer uses email as an initial infection vector, but also leverages the EternalBlue exploit and stolen and hardcoded credentials to spread to other machines on the compromised environment. This wormlike behavior suggests that the malware was probably always intended to target enterprises.

Beapy is mostly focused on enterprises in Asia, with over 80% of its victims located in China. Others are located in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United States, the Philippines, Vietnam, and elsewhere. 

The activity is similar to that F-Secure associated in early January 2019 with NRSMiner.

The malware spreads via a malicious Excel document that drops the DoublePulsar backdoor onto the target machine, to achieve remote execution. Next, a PowerShell command is executed and the command and control (C&C) server is contacted before the coinminer is downloaded. 

Beapy targets unpatched machines to establish a foothold on the network, and leverages EternalBlue and credential-stealing Mimikatz to spread to other systems. The malware also uses a hardcoded list of usernames and passwords for further network compromise. 

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An earlier version of Beapy, coded in C, Symantec says, was discovered on a public-facing web server and was attempting to spread to computers connected to that server. This early variant also attempted to exploit vulnerabilities in Apache Struts (CVE-2017-5638), Apache Tomcat (CVE-2017-12615), and Oracle WebLogic Server (CVE-2017-10271). 

Cryptojacking activity dropped 52% in 2018, but it remains an area of interest for cyber criminals. Beapy also stands out because it is a file-based coinminer, meaning that it is not affected by the recent demise of the Coinhive coin-mining service, which facilitated browser-based cryptojacking. 

Additionally, file-based coinminers can mine cryptocurrency faster compared to their browser-based counterparts, meaning that they provide a big advantage to their operators, especially since the value of Monero, the most commonly mined cryptocurrency, dropped by 90% in 2018.

Cryptojacking might not be as disruptive as ransomware, but it could still have high impact on businesses by affecting devices’ performance, potentially reducing productivity, overheating batteries, and rendering devices unusable. This would also increase costs due to electricity usage, Symantec points out. 

Related: Cryptojacking Applications Land in Microsoft Store

Related: Is Cryptojacking Replacing Ransomware as the Next Big Threat?

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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